M3.07. Conducting evaluation of the mentoring process

3. Use of Qualitative Methods

Determining if you should use qualitative methods
Depending on the answers to the evaluation factor questions, you may decide that a qualitative method could be right for you.

Types of questions that qualitative methods can help answer
At the most basic level, qualitative methods are concerned with the why and how and are therefore useful for an in-depth study of a particular issue rather than a broad study. Therefore, if your evaluation questions include inquiries about how the participants in your programme applied what they learned in order to achieve career growth, or why there was a poor attendance rate to mentor/mentee meetings, for example, then you should consider qualitative methods.

Primary audience for the findings
Qualitative methods generate data that appeal to audiences who are curious to know what lies behind statistics, or the cause of specific data trend.

Potential respondents and sample size
Qualitative methods are helpful if you are working with a smaller number of people, mainly
because conducting interviews and focus groups with a lot of people can be expensive and time consuming. Qualitative methods also help if the people you want to collect information from feel more comfortable expressing their opinions verbally than in written form.

Programme length and amount of time for data collection
Qualitative methods can be useful regardless of programme length, however, the evaluation plan should allow enough time to analyse the data because analysing data from qualitative methods is more time-consuming than calculating data from quantitative methods.

Budget and other resources
In general, under comparable conditions (i.e., length of program, amount of time for data collection, sample size), qualitative methods can be more expensive than quantitative or mixed methods for several reasons. There may be travel costs for the data collector and for the respondents, or for specialist out-sourced skills that may be required. An analyst also needs more time to read and code text from interview and focus group transcripts and observation notes.